Posts Tagged 'Discernment'

Living for the Lord

“For if we live, we live for the Lord,” says St. Paul (Rom 14:8) in this Sunday’s Second Reading. This is quite an examination of conscience for me. Is my living really “living for the Lord”? Is the way I choose to act, think, speak, and believe such that the Lord would want to say, “That’s mine!” Is the motivation and goal of my day-to-day living focused on God and what he had in mind when I was created in his image and likeness? And how in the world do I approach an answer to those kinds of questions?

I asked a six-year-old, “What do you think it means to ‘live for the Lord’?” He answered, “It means you should get a job in a church.” I asked a ninety-six year old, who answered, “It means, darlin’, that he’s your everything.” I asked a college student: “It probably means more than I care to think about right now.” I asked someone who has been hurt by the Church: “It means God is bigger than any mistakes I or anyone else might make.” I asked someone who’s given her life in service to the Church: “It means rising above the fray.” I asked a friend: “Living for the Lord is trying our best to live in love.”

So…with all the data in, I am challenged to answer the question myself. What does it mean to “live for the Lord”? I suppose it means receiving the gift of life God gives me each day, and spending it freely on whomever it is I encounter on that given day, transmitting to them the gift of life and love so freely given me.

What does it mean to you?

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The Gift of Youthful Fidelity

When Pope Benedict XVI met with young women religious at World Youth Day last week, he said, among many other beautiful things, that “the Church needs your youthful fidelity, rooted and built up in Christ.” It seems like such a simple statement, an obvious reality. But as I have sat with this since last week, I have been struck by his use of the word need.

I have the privilege of spending lots of time with young women who are either contemplating a religious vocation or have recently begun the formation process in religious life. I experience their “youthful fidelity” on a daily basis, and it is always—always—a source of inspiration and encouragement to me. There is a freshness and a vitality to their love for Christ that rekindles my own “first love” and reminds me of just why I have committed myself to Christ in the service of the Church for a lifetime. I think the Pope was 100% on-target with his use of the word “need.” The Church does need the witness of youthful fidelity to Christ, as a confirmation that boldly proclaims that all we have been promised by God is trustworthy…and that God is worth the gift of our lives!

The Holy Father went on to say to young women religious: “Your lives must testify to the personal encounter with Christ which has nourished your consecration, and to all the transforming power of that encounter.” It all starts with a personal relationship with Christ…and from there, if we remain open to his love, he can transform all that is fearful within us to trust, all that is anxious within us to courage, all that is doubtful within us to deep, deep faith. May the Christ who knows each of us so personally, through the power of his Spirit, fill you this day with the love of his Heart.

Discernment

Jen and Arianne, two very wise young women I know recently described discernment as “a dark place with questions.” Ever since hearing that characterization, I’ve been struck by how accurate it is. Now typically darkness isn’t a very attractive place to be! And certainly we’d rather have answers than questions. But is there a different way to approach this “dark place with questions” other than with fear and trepidation? Maybe so…

Darkness is the place of fertility for growing seeds; it is also the place out of which the rising sun emerges. Darkness, even for the discomfort it might bring, needn’t be completely frightening if we can perceive that it is the place of waiting and not the final destination.

And how about questions? Contemporary society doesn’t seem to like questions and ambiguity very much—we’d much rather have straight answers and clear-cut outlines. Is it right or wrong? Should I pursue this or that? Is God saying yes or no? But the questions are what stretch our faith and deepen our trust, leading us to believe in God’s answers rather than our own. And living with the questions rather than demanding the answers is what will make us more open, more faithful, and more humble.

So, discernment: “the dark place with questions.” It could be an intimidating place of scary uncertainties…if we choose to perceive it that way. But it could also be a fertile place of stronger relationship with God…if we decide we will let it be.

“Rabboni!”

In today’s Gospel we are reminded that St. Mary Madgalene was looking for the dead body of her Lord, Jesus Christ. She never found it. Instead, she first heard his voice, but didn’t recognize it. When he called her by name, “Mary,” she recognized the voice of her Teacher (“Rabboni!”) and Lord. When she looked up, she saw her risen, LIVING Lord.

Look deep within your heart. In the darkness of the unknown in discerning God’s will for your life, listen for the Lord’s voice. Pray that you hear the voice of the Lord call you by name, that you may acknowledge him as your LIVING Lord, who lives within you and (just as for St. Mary Magdalene) turns your darkness into light, and your tears into joy.

“I will be with you”

In yesterday’s liturgy (EX 3:1-6, 9-12), we read of Moses who stood in the presence of God, before the burning bush . Moses was afraid and didn’t understand what God was asking of him. Sometimes we don’t know to what God is calling us, but he simply wants our availability, “Here I am, Lord.”

I suppose its like being “Open 24 hours” – being ready to do the will of God always, trusting that even though we may not “know the way” (JN 14:4-5) or think we can accomplish what God is asking, he will help us do his will. The Lord won’t abandon us to fulfill his will, for “I will be with you (EX 3:12),” says the Lord.

“A Great Time to Be a Priest”

Friends, if you are considering God’s call to the priesthood and haven’t read this blog post by Fr. Robert Barron, take a moment, now. Despite what popular media might tell you, it’s a great time to be a priest!

Always near

I had a very strange set of circumstances happen last week: I got stuck in the Resurrection. Not a bad place to be, but I bet you’re wondering what exactly I mean. It goes like this. Last week, I found myself in St. Louis, an archdiocese that celebrates the Ascension on Sunday rather than Thursday. I returned on Saturday to my home diocese of Hartford, an archdiocese that celebrates the Ascension on Thursday rather than Sunday. So technically, I never had the chance to celebrate liturgically the feast of the Ascension—getting me “stuck” in the Resurrection, or more technically, getting the Resurrected Christ of my spiritual life “stuck” on earth without ascending to Heaven!

I spent quite a bit of time in those “interim days” pondering the Ascension readings and considering what would happen if Jesus had never “returned” to Heaven, but rather remained with us here “even until the end of time.” Part of me thinks that would be a pretty incredible reality—that every living human person from the moment of the Incarnation would have an opportunity to meet, touch, hear, see, and experience the risen Jesus “in the flesh.” Certainly the entire population of the world would believe in the Christ if we had the opportunity to experience him with our own eyes and ears. Right? Well…let’s think about that.

We do have that opportunity. He didn’t ascend and abandon us. He ascended and remained with us. The risen Body of Christ remains in our midst, both sacramentally in the Eucharist and incarnationally in us, the people of God who are His Body. Right there in the Ascension Gospel we read: “While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?’ ” Why are you looking for Jesus up there? Instead, look inside. Look around. You can’t miss him if you know what you’re looking for.

A friend of mine recently made an inadvertently comical statement as she tried to explain why she is sometimes difficult to reach. She said something like, “If I’m not here, I’m somewhere else. But no matter where I am, I’m always somewhere.” Funny, right? Maybe…but not if we consider it from the point of view of the risen, ascended, always-present Christ. He’s always somewhere nearby—nearer to us than we are to our very selves. Happy Ascension.



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